Sunday 23 October 2016

Is Snapchat more popular than TV? It's certainly on its way

Published 01/07/2016 | 07:38


Last week, a jazzy YouTube announcement from Snapchat made a bold claim: the app said it is more popular with millennials than the average TV program: it apparently reaches a hefty 40pc of 18 to 34-year-olds, compared with the average TV program’s measly 6pc.

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The social media app that is impenetrable to most people born in the 80's allows users to send each other self-destructing messages and watch live videos their friends create, and has amassed 100m daily active users since its launch in 2011.

Most recently, it disclosed that it has 10m daily users in Britain alone, where it launched an office only about seven months ago. In fact, Britons are the third-most prolific Snapchatters globally, spending an average of 15 minutes on the ephemeral chat app every day according to web analytics company SimilarWeb.

So what’s the big deal, you say – just another social media app? On the surface, maybe.

Snapchat is unapologetic about its audience: if you can’t figure it out, you’re probably too old.  There are no obvious instructions for how to use it; you have to effortlessly know which way to swipe to get to your friends’ posts, just how long to long-press before the range of funny filters pop up and find the exact knack to exiting a video you’ve finished watching (there’s no easy “x” button).

This week Michelle Obama made her first appearance on the app and one of the features it’s most famous for is a “face swap” that allows you to transpose faces and objects, resulting in endless hilarity.

But if that sounds to you like a teeny-bopper plaything that’s going to flame out when the next new thing comes along, you’d be wrong. Snapchat has become a legitimate player in the online ad wars, with legacy British brands from Wimbledon to BBC Eastenders and Cadbury’s buying into the Snapchat promise.

A report by PwC predicts the UK market for digital video advertising on social networks and news websites will grow by nearly 25 per cent every year for the next five years – Snapchat gets about 10bn video views per day, according to chief executive Spiegel, which is 350pc year-on-year growth. That’s compared to just 8bn on Facebook’s 1.5bn-people strong platform.

Roughly 18 months ago, Snapchat was advert-free, and now the company predicts $300m in ad revenue this year. According to AdWeek, if Snapchat plays its cards just right, a huge chunk of TV budgets could be heading its way right now.

The entire point of Snapchat is to create individual snaps, or bite-sized “stories” – it could be a collection of users’ snaps around a live event like a street party or the EU referendum, snapshots of your friend’s recent holiday or little chunks from your favourite media producer from Sky Sports to MTV.

I saw a Cosmo gallery on lip colours in the morning had been replaced one about tiny tattoos by afternoon.

This makes it a sort of personalised and private entertainment package: not only do you choose what you see, but a snap can go to select friends and, poof, it will disappear instantly after it’s been viewed. Even if you chose to share a “story” with all your friends, it’s wiped clean after 24 hours. Forget forever - nothing on Snapchat even lasts a day.

This is perfect for sharp, targeted campaigns, especially around live events. Take Wimbledon: Snapchat recently confirmed a multi-year partnership with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which means the app will curate Live Stories from the championships this summer, including Opening Day, Women’s Final and Men’s Final carrying official Wimbledon signage.

For the EU Referendum, the app ran a series of Geofilters – location-based overlays that show a date and time – ahead of voter registration cut-off, for people to send snaps alongside a reminder of the deadline.

Snap Screen grap.PNG  

One of their sponsored lenses, a filter that turned people’s faces into a giant taco shell (sponsored by Taco Bell), was viewed 224m times in one day.

The day before Cannes Lions, which started on Saturday, Snapchat trumpeted its plan to become an advertising heavyweight: the launch of Snapchat Partners, an API that will let ads be sold by third-party companies for the first time. This means advertising will be sold on an exchange, in a similar system to Google AdWords.

This includes an arm that connects brands directly to ad tech developers to make their own ads, although these campaigns won’t launch until later in the year. The ads will be overseen in-house, just as Instagram does, so they are in keeping with the Snapchat ethos. 

It’s clear now that big brands are taking notice of Snapchat, but the target audience is no longer just millennials: Snapchat’s chief strategy officer Imran Khan has said that the audience is growing up, just as the app has. Now, 70pc of Snapchat users in the UK are reportedly 18+. This is only partly evidenced by the fact that my father – who works in media buying for a large multinational company – recently started Snapchatting me from work, to “see what the fuss was about.”

It’s not just that Snapchat is becoming a revenue generator in its own right – the upstart is starting to grab advertising market share from its grown-up peers like FB and Instagram. According to research from eMarketer, 22 pc of media buyers plan to spend on Snapchat, compared to 4pc percent on Facebook and Twitter in 2016.

For all these companies, video is a priority as they map out their future. As we frequently whip out our phones to capture a moment, there’s a battle for which app we choose to post on: Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine for bite-sized clips, YouTube for longer episodes. “Over the next few years, video is going to be some of the most engaging content online,” Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts during Facebook’s November earnings call.

Digital video advertising in the UK reached £740m in 2015, according to eMarketer. In the US, digital video advertising is thought to have hit $7.46bn last year. Revenues from video adverts on social media like Facebook or YouTube and news website will reach £717m in 2018.

So ultimately, it’s a battle for eyeballs - and Snapchat has our attention. Recently leaked documents show Snapchat expects its revenue to rise to $1bn in 2017. That’s no small feat, but I spy a juggernaut in the making.

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